Families in the Three Rivers district will pay less for council services in the next financial year, but will pay more in the following two years.

Three Rivers District Council voted this evening to cut its Council Tax demand by 0.5 per cent – equivalent to £156 for an average family.

The 2010/11 budget, proposed this evening by the ruling Liberal Democrat administration, also forecast rises of 1.95 per cent in 2011/12 and 2012/13.

Resources spokesman Councillor Matthew Bedford said the cut had been made possible by continued efficiency savings, which totalled £1.2million last year.

In a jibe at the opposition Conservative group, he insisted there would be “no slash and burn” cuts to finance unsustainable cost reductions.

Conservative group members, however, rejected the idea of immediate cuts and instead proposed three years of consecutive freezes.

Group leader Councillor David Sansom, speaking before his rival budget was voted down, said many of the necessary savings could be made by scrapping the council’s current annual rolling cycle of elections. Instead, he argued, they could be replaced with set four year counts to save more than £100,000 each year.

The administration, he added, must stop dipping into reserve funds – boosted in March 2008 by the £20 million council housing stock sell-off – to fund its spending.

He said: “We have been selling off the family silver. The once-in-a-lifetime windfall from the Thrive Homes sell-off is being frittered away.”

Councillor Chris Hayward added to the criticism, calling the ruling administration “tired and incompetent”.

Councillor Sara Bedford, however, was scathing in her criticism of the Tories’ plans.

She said: “This is a prime example of knowing the cost of everything and the value of nothing. The value of elections every year is that they keep councillors on their toes.

“I think residents get better value with the current system. You only have to look at the county council [Tory controlled] to know what complacency this idea [fewer elections] breeds.”

Council leader Ann Shaw added that such a move would only serve to reduce the democratic rights of residents.

The Liberal Democrats' budget, which accounts for about 13 per cent of combined Council Tax bills, was approved by majority vote.